Pitching Championship Perfect

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urlThe news that San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum had pitched his second no-hitter against the San Diego Padres in less than a year had the baseball world buzzing about one of the game’s current masters of the mound.

Was the freakishly good Lincecum back to his dominating ways? Did the fact that he’d needed 35 fewer pitches to shut down the Padres than he’d used in his first no-hitter against them mean that Lincecum had magically turned back the clock? Had anyone even accomplished what he had in logging to two no-hitters against the same team within a year’s time?

As for the first couple of questions, those are anyone’s guess, though the two-time Cy Young winner is the first Giants hurler to have thrown two no-hitters for the club since Christy Mathewson did it for the then-New York Giants over a century ago.

As for no-hitting the same team twice? A Hall of Famer by the name of Addie Joss, playing for Cleveland, tossed a perfect game against the Chicago White Sox in 1908 and then no-hit the Sox in 1910.

Anytime discussion turns to amazing pitching legends, though, one has to recall the feat attained by journeyman Don Larsen, who pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.

At the time, Larsen’s feat was only the sixth perfect game ever recorded in Major League Baseball (MLB) history. It still stands as the only perfect or no-hit game in the history of the World Series itself, and just one of a pair of no-hitters to have occurred in MLB postseason play. Larsen was given the Most Valuable Player Award for the 1956 World Series as well as the Babe Ruth Award for that year.

Larsen’s accomplishment is all the more remarkable in light of his outing in Game 2 of the ’56 Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, when he was spotted a 6-0 lead by the Yanks only to be removed after less than two innings in what amounted to an eventual 13-8 loss to the Bronx Bombers’ crosstown rivals.

By contrast, in game 5, Larsen needed a mere 97 pitches to dispatch of the Dodgers, with only one batter pushing him to a 3-ball count. Years later, Larsen would say, “I had great control. I never had that kind of control in my life.”

The kind of control, no doubt, that also came from unrelenting practice, pitch after pitch, as has also always been the case with great hitters.